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Visiting Panama City? Don’t Miss Café Rene

a bowl of salad with tongs

If you’re in Casco Viejo region of Panama City (Panama) around lunch or dinner, Café Rene is a must. I was looking for lunch options near my hotel, Tantalo Hotel/Kitchen/Rooftop, and discovered this gem barely a block away. And as much as I loved my dinner at Tantalo, I’m kinda wishing I had dined at Café Rene instead.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I came back from the Panama Canal and wanted to grab lunch before heading out to the airport. TripAdvisor highly recommended this place so I decided to give it a try. So much so that even though I couldn’t find it on my first walk around Casco Viejo I went back to look.

a building under construction with scaffolding

people sitting at tables under umbrellas

It’s easy to find, I’d just missed it because the square is under construction and it was immediately adjacent to the metal walls surrounding the Cathedral Basilica of St. Mary. Cafe Rene is an unassuming place with 4 outdoor tables. I walked in and immediately loved the simple décor, the elegant tables, and the open kitchen.

But the outdoor breeze was calling me (and the stern grandmother chef intimidated me) so I picked one of the outside tables.a table and chairs under an umbrella

The menu is simple. Lunch is $10 for 5 courses and you get to choose the protein. Everything else is the chef’s whim. I followed the recommendations and went with the corvina (sea bass) over the beef, chicken, or pork options and wasn’t disappointed.

a plate with silverware and glasses on a table

a basket with baby bibs and a plate of butter
Fresh bread with herbed butter

First up was a beautiful wilted salad, big enough for two.a bowl of salad with tongs

Then a beautiful Spanish tortilla/quiche with caramelized onions.a piece of food on a plate

Then the plain but beautifully, lightly fried fresh sea bass.a piece of fried fish and an orange slice on a white plate

And the specialty rice with scallions and pineapple. Not a big rice fan but this was divine. I think I ate more than half of that giant bowl.a bowl of rice with vegetables

And it finished with a slightly spicy brownie.

a close up of a brownie on a plateA pint of bottled water was only a buck and my glass of wine was only $5.50. The whole indulgent lunch was only $18 including service.

There’s only one waiter, but he’s awesome, so be patient. Apparently dinner is only $25 for 7 courses plus wine so if I go back, that’s the first place I’ll go.

More from this trip

Why I Just Spent 28 Hours on a Plane
A Night in the Love Ouch
Don’t Pay for Lounge Access at the Crowne Plaza Panama Airport Hotel
Review of the Crowne Plaza Panama Airport Hotel
5 Reasons to Use Uber in Panama
A Slice of History: Visiting the Panama Canal

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